Research Week

We are in the midst of Oklahoma State University’s 12th annual Research Week, which celebrates the research and scholarly accomplishments of students and faculty at OSU. This is my first experience with Research Week and it has been invigorating to experience the full scope of OSU’s research enterprise condensed into one week.

DASNR’s Food and Agricultural Products Center helped to set the tone for the week with a research symposium yesterday (Feb. 17) in the FAPC building. The symposium featured a presentation by Dr. Larry Steenson, principal scientist at DuPont Nutrition and Health, on the topic Use of Antimicrobials in Food: An Industrial Perspective.

A research symposium featuring student and faculty presenters from across campus is underway today through Friday (Feb. 18-20) on the fourth floor of the Student Union.

For me, the highlight of the week was the Research Gala held Tuesday evening in the Student Union Ballroom. The event honors the research accomplishments of OSU faculty and features art produced by students as well. The faculty members who were recognized have made some remarkable discoveries and creations, including patents, plant variety protection certificates and technologies licensed for commercial use.

Not surprisingly, DASNR was very well represented among the honorees. They include Dr. Francis Eppelin, recently named Regents Professor, and Dr. Jeanmarie Verchot, who received the Regents Distinguished Research Award.

Seven DASNR faculty members received Patent Awards, including Drs. Danielle D. Bellmer, Raymond Huhnke, Dennis Martin, Justin Moss, Chad Penn, Charles Taliaferro (Emeritus) and Yanqi Wu.

Meanwhile, eight other DASNR faculty and staff received Plant Variety Protection Certificate Awards: Roger Osburn, Jeff Wright and Drs. Brett Carver, Jeffrey Edwards, Kristopher Giles, Robert Hunger, Patricia Rayas-Duarte and Liuling Yan.

Dr. Liuling Yan Associate Professor in Wheat Molecular Genetics.  with Genqiao Li and Lei Lei, in the lab.

Dr. Liuling Yan

 

Drs. Francisco Ochoa Corona and Charles Taliaferro received acknowledgement of their contributions to licensed technologies. Also, Drs. Danielle Bellmer and Chad Penn were named to the National Academy of Inventors. OSU has 29 members of this esteemed group.

Videos featuring several of our faculty who were recognized at the gala will be posted on the DASNR channel of OState TV.

Research is a fundamental part of our mission every day of the year. But I think it’s great that we take one week to say “thanks” to those who are pushing the frontiers of knowledge and creativity on behalf of the people of Oklahoma.

Beginning with the end in mind

The last thing our world needs is yet another blog posting on New Year’s resolutions. So let’s not call this a treatise on resolutions. Rather, let’s call it some reflections on making a difference. In fact, writing this near the end of January helps to reinforce that this is about more than our New Year’s resolutions.

One of the great fortunes of working for a land-grant university is that we have been given a mission. It defines our purpose, and it gives us a reason for public and private investment in our work. There are many ways of describing that mission, but one description I prefer defines not just what we do (conduct research, teach resident students, extend knowledge and skills), but also includes for whom we perform this work: the people of Oklahoma. We’re called to develop new knowledge and new applications of that knowledge related to the business of growing crops and livestock, stewarding our natural resources, growing and sustaining youth and families, and strengthening community vitality.

OSU Extension staff hosts a workshop on conserving water while maintaining yards and gardens.

OSU Extension staff hosts a workshop on conserving water while maintaining yards and gardens.

As we carry out our work, we tend to focus on planning what we are going to do and then getting it done. But in thinking about the work that lies ahead, whether it is for one day, a week, or the year ahead, I think our public service mission calls us to be responsive in more ways than planning and doing. In addition, I think we need to consider the responsibility to account for what we’ve done, and most importantly, to account for what our actions have accomplished.

In other words, it is not sufficient to plan and carry out research studies, plan and conduct classes and learning laboratories, or plan and deliver Extension programs and information products. We also must be prepared to describe the difference our work has made – how it has helped individuals improve their productivity or safety, how much a farming operation has improved its profitability, how much a family has enhanced their financial security, how much a community has improved its service to residents and businesses. At the core of our mission, we are not paid to simply work. We are paid to make a difference.

And with that definition of our mission, it is imperative that as we plan and conduct our research, teaching or Extension programs, we also must prepare for how we can document the impact of our work. We must begin with the end in mind. That means we need to state explicitly the audience we intend to serve, we must anticipate among alternative approaches which will be the most effective in achieving our objectives, and we must plan for what measures will tell us whether we’ve accomplished our goal. It is important to quantify our impacts, and doing so requires planning in advance of the end of the research project or course or Extension program, ideally before the work begins.

In a way, the edict that we must plan with the end in mind is a useful lesson for thinking through New Year’s resolutions as well. If one of your resolutions relates to personal health and fitness, I’m guessing that you have a measure in your mind (losing the 5 pounds that six months of Oklahoma brisket has added to my girth would be mine). If you have some personal financial goals for the year, they might include some measure of the savings you plan to accumulate through the year or the debt load you plan to reduce. If your resolutions tie in with personal relationships, it might be more of a challenge to quantify the impact of those improvements, but perhaps you can challenge yourself to achieve qualitative benchmarks that would assess the quality of your interactions with family, friends or colleagues.

By the end of January, many resolutions have been forgotten, modified or transgressed. But if you’re still working on some that you launched on January 1, ask yourself how you will know if your achievement of those resolutions makes a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.